money

Grizz, the author's cat. This photo makes sense if you read the story.
KUOW Photo/Abraham Epton

Elections are big business, with consultants, campaign staffers, advertising firms and TV stations raking in big bucks. 

Grizz, the author's cat. This photo makes sense if you read the story.
KUOW Photo/Abraham Epton

Politicians are reputed to be as eager for contributions as my cat when she sees me reaching for the wet food.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg waves after speaking to delegates during the third day session of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Wednesday, July 27, 2016.
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg has waded a quarter-million dollars deeper into Washington state politics.

Bloomberg gave $248,000 to Washington Democrats on Sept. 7, according to the latest reports filed with the Washington Public Disclosure Commission.

It was just a glimpse, but the scene spoke volumes — and started a push for help. Joel Cervantes Macias was struck by the sight of an elderly man pushing his cart of frozen treats on Chicago's 26th Street, so he took a photo. That was last week; as of Monday afternoon, Macias had raised more than $165,000 to help a stranger.

Close to $100 million has gone into this year's elections in Washington state so far, all aiming to influence you and your neighbors' votes.

That's just one of the things your official voters' guide won't tell you, but KUOW's new Field Guide to Influence will. The Field Guide lets you see the largely hidden actors trying to sway your vote behind the scenes.


In so many ways, 1968 was a great year for middle-class Americans' wallets — and terrible for politics.

On the one hand, gasoline was cheap and unemployment was low. Real estate values were rising, helping average homeowners build wealth. Good times!

Still, many people were not feeling good — at all. In 1968, the tumultuous presidential-election year brought strident clashes at political events, third-party disruptions, calls for "law and order," racial discord and worries about foreign enemies.

Sound familiar?

There's a new book out about the student loan crisis, or what author Sandy Baum suggests is a "bogus crisis." Baum, a financial aid expert and senior fellow at the Urban Institute, claims it has been manufactured by the media in search of a spicy story and fueled by politicians pushing "debt free college" proposals.

We had a few questions for Baum about the book, Student Debt: Rhetoric and Realities of Higher Education.

Why can't kids today just work their way through college the way earlier generations did?

The answer to that question isn't psychology. It's math. A summer job just doesn't have the purchasing power it used to, especially when you compare it with the cost of college.

Walking to work in the Mission District of San Francisco, John Luna noticed a pattern. Just after the first and the 15th of the month, he says, he saw long lines of people.

"It's like trying to get into the most popular nightclub in the city," says Luna. But what he found at the front of the line was not a bar or lounge. Instead, the long lines led to check cashing outlets and payday lenders.

Most everyone knows someone adversely affected by student debt: More than 40 million Americans are shouldering a crippling $1.3 trillion in loans.

That burden is obstructing careers, families, dreams, employment and even retirement.

Uncle Sam and Wall Street have made lots of money off the crisis.

"My goal for this special session is to keep the schools open," said Sam Brownback, Republican governor of Kansas, talking about a high-stakes gathering today in Topeka.

He called lawmakers back from their vacations for a special session after the state's Supreme Court doubled-down on its demand that they make school funding more equitable across districts or risk a calamitous funding freeze.

"We cannot allow our children to be caught in a constitutional struggle between branches of government," Brownback said. But that's exactly what's happened.

Yesterday on Capitol Hill, Tina Meins and other survivors of gun violence joined Democratic senators to push for tougher gun control laws. In the San Bernardino mass killing last year, Meins' father and 13 of his co-workers were shot to death.

"In mere seconds, my life and the lives of my mother and sister were irrevocably changed," she says.

A few years ago, a man came to pastor Wes Helm at Springcreek Church in Garland, Texas, and opened up about his financial troubles. Helm looked through the man's budget and noticed one major monthly expense: a payday loan fee three times more than the amount of the loan itself.

The American Red Cross spent a quarter of the money people donated after the 2010 Haiti earthquake — or almost $125 million — on its own internal expenses, far more than the charity previously had disclosed, according to a report released Thursday by Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley.

The report also says the charity's top officials stonewalled congressional investigators and released incomplete information about its Haiti program to the public. It concludes "there are substantial and fundamental concerns about [the Red Cross] as an organization."

For years, Heartland Regional Medical Center, a nonprofit hospital in the small city of St. Joseph, Mo., had quietly sued thousands of its low-income patients over their unpaid bills.

But after an investigation by NPR and ProPublica prompted further scrutiny by Sen. Charles Grassley, the hospital overhauled its financial assistance policy late last year and forgave the debts of thousands of former patients.

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